Every Picture’s Untold Story, Part Two

DATELINE: Twice-Told Lizards

Mrs. Arnolfini, not pregnant No Expectations?

Waldemar Janusczark returns for a second round of nasty interpretations of great works of art. The series is the veddy British Every Picture Tells a Story. He isn’t off much in his comments. After all, it’s art and open to criticism from a legitimate authority. He does it with aplomb and humor, if not deadpan accuracy.

Among the targets this time around are Da Vinci and Caravaggio, as well as Jan Van Eyke.

First up on the hit list is Caravaggio, known for his violent depictions of effeminate boys, mostly commissioned works for wealthy and gay bishops.

Caravaggio liked to use rough trade types from the streets of Rome in his religious depictions, and he also enjoyed using a younger version of himself as Bacchus, that god of dissipation and licentiousness.

So, Waldemar goes after Boy Bitten by Lizard. It may be one of the rare occasions when pontification about the symbol of the middle finger is at the heart of art.

Later, he tackles Da Vinci with a hatchet. There is no love for the great master as Waldemar notes how Mona Lisa is a marketing icon and a plump housewife whose critical appreciation is overwrought.

He also takes on The Marriage of Arnolfini, ridiculing anyone who says Mrs. Arnolfini is not pregnant in the picture. He goes even a step beyond to suggest that she is the victim of death in childbirth and that the portrait is posthumous, done as homage by her husband.

You cannot go wrong by hearing these takes on great art, and it will make you the center of attention at parties when you reveal what you have learned.

 

 

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Mona Lisa Mystery: Mother of Heavens!

DATELINE: Plausible Theory about Mona’s Secret

mona

A documentary on Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is always worth a glance, but we nearly clamped down on this one immediately. Secret of Mona Lisa is fairly entertaining documentary theory, despite a few missteps.

It falsely noted that the painting has been famous for “centuries,” not exactly true as it has been only well-known since its kidnapping in 1911. Before that, it was not well-protected or well-considered.

Then, the documentary narrator noted that Leonardo died at the “advanced age of 67.”  Pardon us? Perhaps they meant that 67 was advanced in 1520. We hang tough.

It’s flatly called The Secret of Mona Lisa, to no surprise.

The point of the hour-long special was to come up with a plausible theory on Mona Lisa’s true identity. For years experts have grappled with the notion she was the third wife (albeit young trophy wife) of a rich Florentine silk merchant.

What businessman pays for a painting and never collects it? And worse, would he let his wife wear her worst, most colorless togs for the sitting?  Of course, some experts think this is not the portrait of La Gioconda, the businessman’s wife; that particular portrait may actually be lost.

However, there are no records of payment, collection, transfer, or disposition until after Leonardo’s death when his boyfriend and young companion, Salai, lists a Gioconda picture among his after-effects. That one is definitely lost.

So, the Louvre picture is an entirely different portrait, misidentified as Mona Lisa Gioconda, the merchant’s spouse.

We have considered for years that Leonardo painted himself in women’s clothes for this little subject. Then again, all Leonardo’s subject faces look alike, as if he used the mirror to save on model costs.

The film comes up with the best theory of Mona Lisa’s identity that we have ever heard: though again, there is no record of it being commissioned by one of the Medici family as a picture of an illegitimate son’s dead mother.

She is, in fact, a representation of all motherhood for Leonardo, perhaps his own mother, as he too was out of wedlock born.

Since in later years, we ourselves commissioned a painting of our long-gone mother in her youth to hang in our home, we know the idea is not so far-fetched. Old men like to see a picture of their youthful mother who died long ago, too young.

In that sense, this little documentary struck a chord with us.